Amicus demands outsourcing meeting with Hewitt after critical report

The white-collar union Amicus demanded an urgent meeting with Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, yesterday over the growing pace of British jobs being outsourced to India.

The move followed publication of a study of the impact of outsourcing, which claims service from British call centres is significantly better than their counterparts in Bangalore and Dehli in the subcontinent.

Amicus insisted the Department of Trade and Industry, which commissioned the study from the research firm Contactbabel, disclose full details of all work it is doing on the controversial subject. Following pressure from unions as well as from the business community, the DTI agreed to hold a summit to discuss the impact of outsourcing. Amicus wants Ms Hewitt to make herself available before that meeting, on 2 February, to hear its views.

David Fleming, the national secretary of Amicus, said: "We already know the answer to any survey that the Government has commissioned and so do the British consumers. Services will suffer, cost savings will not be transferred to the consumer, poor business decisions will be made in pursuit of short-term cost savings and company brands will be damaged by outsourcing."

The study by Contactbabel found British call centres answer 25 per cent more calls an hour than those in India. The result conflicts with the line taken by companies that have moved hundreds of jobs, which claim the standard of work in the East is the same or even superior to that in the UK.

HSBC, which announced the largest project to transfer jobs - moving 4,000 primarily to India by 2006 - has said its workers in centres such as Hyderabad, offer service levels very similar to those in its British centres.

The trend, which is being pursued by Lloyds TSB, Barclays, Abbey and companies in other sectors, has caused consternation among unions, who fear a repeat of the way the UK's manufacturing industry was wiped out in the 1980s, when about three millions jobs migrated to the Far East.

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